As regular readers know, I am a fan of traveling by train and I probably use the Romainian rail lines several times a year to get to my destination, usually on the route Timisoara – Bucharest (and back). Even better, I have traveled by train in other European countries, so I can really compare the services offered in Romania to those usually considered better in Europe. So if you are planning to travel by train in Romania – or you have to, I am here to give you the good, the bad and the ugly.
What I like about traveling by Train in Romania
– First, it’s the thing I like about traveling by train anywhere: you get more room to stretch your bones, you can get up and walk and generally feel better than you would if you were to take a car or bus to your destination. Even better, the carts are not usually packed, so you have your room to breathe and you can even change seats if you want to.
– Trains in Romania are cheap and usually cheaper than taking a car. First class is really cheap too and I would recommend anybody to take first class instead of second (for the 5 hours long ride that I’m usually on, the difference between 2nd and 1st class is about 7 Euros and for that you get better air con, better chairs and overall better comfort). Have in mind, though, that first class in Romanian trains is nowhere near luxury and some older first class carts are now used as second class on some trains.
– Unless you’re taking Regio trains (slow and old), they usually have at least decent air conditioning and especially great heating so you should have a comfortable ride.
– There are quite a few power outlets available in the carts, so you can watch a movie on your laptop or play games on your smartphone without having to worry about your battery dying on you.
– Even though the overall speed of the trains is slower than what you’d like and some rides take a loooong time (since Romania is a pretty large country too), the connections are usually good and you can get to any interesting destination in Romania by train. In other words, you can easily travel and explore even if you don’t own a car!
– New private companies are starting to offer even better prices, modern trains and overall better value (perfect air con, cleanliness, free wi fi and so on), even though at the moment their destinations are limited. Look for Softrans and Regiotrans.
What I don’t like about traveling by train in Romania
– The trains and carriages are in a pretty poor condition: expect them to be pretty dirty and expect stuff not to work properly – like the electrical doors, the water faucet in the toilets and so on. And yes, sometimes the toilets are a nightmare!
– They rarely get there on time. There are horror moments when trains that travel on very long distances can get delays of 90 minutes and sometimes more. And even other trains use to get to their destination at least a few minutes late. The train that I am constantly on, for example, has is usually 20 minutes late (from Drobeta Turnu Severin to Bucharest or vice-versa).
– Sometimes, air conditioning won’t work – or won’t be able to keep up with the weather. I never had problems with the heating during the winter, but very hot summer days can prove to be a problem to the probably old air conditioning systems in Romanian trains.
– I haven’t seen a working restaurant/bar in a Romanian train for quite some time now. The best you can expect is for a guy to hop in with overpriced snacks and drinks, carrying them in a huge basket (usually traveling just between two, usually close-by destination then hopping off). However, there are a few trains that come equipped with a restaurant/bar wagon so with a bit of research (or luck) you can get one!
The Ugly about traveling by train in Romania
Sometimes, things can get really ugly when you’re traveling by train in Romania. This happened a couple of days ago to me during a short return trip to Craiova: I took an early morning train to the destination, one that left the Drobeta train station at 6 AM. I was shocked to find out that the lights were not working anywhere in the train and neither did the heating: so the conductor was sporting a cool flashlight to check out the tickets, while her teeth were chattering because, you see, the weather is pretty cold now in Romania, especially over the night. It was insane – and it never happened to me, nor I heard it happen before. Still, I was there and it happened and rode in the dark for almost an hour until the sun came up.
It was a cursed return trip, apparently, because the train that took me back home was packed. They were probably not expecting as many passengers as they had on this particular occasion, so the train only had 3 carriages – which were not enough to offer seating to everybody there. So I had to – just like tens of other people – stand for the entire duration of the journey. The fact that all carriages were packed also meant that the air con was not working properly, so it was insanely hot and the air was sultry. Overall, it was a nightmare. So things, if you are terribly unlucky, can get really ugly when it comes to riding a train in Romania.
Now here is an useful link for you: Infofer (the English version). Here you can find information about CFR trains (it doesn’t show departures and info about private company trains), as well as use the “My Train” link on the left hand side of the page to check out live stats (usually see how late they are) of your train. Just enter the number of the train and you’ll get the info. Really useful, especially since you’re in a foreign country!
Despite the cons and even despite the ugly, I am still using the train to travel in Romania and you can give it a try as well, if you have a chance. Most likely, your experience won’t be unpleasant as my “Ugly” one.